Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. Boom.
One of the things that I’m so proud of and I have been proud of about Mixergy from the beginning is that I don’t just feature people who’ve built unicorns, billion-dollar businesses, or even built incredibly successful companies. That’s what we aim for. But I also feature entrepreneurs who built companies who weren’t successful.
And I do that because I believe that as long as you get out there onto the field, you are accomplishing something major. We want to get as many people out there as possible. And at the same time, I believe that we’d learn a lot from analyzing what didn’t work, often more so than we learn from analyzing what does work.
And I know that this is part of the culture of building successful companies because when I get together for dinner with successful entrepreneurs that I’ve interviewed on Mixergy, one of the things that we often talk about is which company they invested in didn’t do so well or which company they know didn’t do so well and why. What did the founder say? Often the founders are there talking about it. That kind of education helps inform the entrepreneurs in the room and also makes them way better entrepreneurs.
So, that’s what we have for you today, an entrepreneur named Ryan Scherf. He is the founder of a company called Payment for Stripe. It enabled Stripe users to accept credit card payments directly from Stripe and to see analytics on their Stripe account. And it was a great product and then Stripe decided that they were going to create their own app.
And we’re going to find out what happened since then. It’s not exactly what you think, but we’re going to learn a lot in this interview and we’re going to make you, the person listening to me right now, into a way better entrepreneur because you’re listening to this interview.
And this interview is sponsored by HostGator. You know, the gator is who you want to look at when you’re looking for a hosting company. And Toptal–you don’t just want any buffoon running your website. You don’t want any buffoon. No clowns, like Steve Jobs said. You want top guys. Top guys are way better than the next level down. Go to Toptal.com. Later on I’ll tell you about both of them. Now I’ve got to say to Ryan. Hey, Ryan.
Ryan: Hey, how’s it going?
Andrew: So, you know what? What was the thing that you saw that made you say, “I think I could create this app?”
Ryan: You know, when we first had the idea for–it was actually an app called Paid–it was right when Stripe kind of became popular. So, we knew that this is easily going to crush Authorize.net. Everything about the API was great and my partner and I, Wes, we were kind of in the market for doing something. We were kind of draining away at our full-time jobs. He’s an iOS developer and I’m a designer. We just thought, “Well, let’s give it a shot. They don’t have a mobile app.”
Andrew: Why Stripe alone? I know the founder of Braintree a little bit. His payment processing company did phenomenal business. Why do you think so many people–and I think he’d agree with this too–so many people were obsessed with Stripe in the tech community and not with other platforms. What was it about Stripe that it got you excited?
Ryan: Yeah. I think for me specifically it was their focus on design. As a designer by trade, the way that they carried through design and really brought design to the forefront was very important to me. It’s typically not a full tech company like that that’s doing this. They were really doing this to where as designers, we have seats at the table. In the last three or four years, it was pushing to get a seat at the table in terms of the product teams and stuff like that. Design has become this thing that’s as important as engineering and MBAs in the world.
For me, I was drawn to Stripe because they were putting out great design. They were putting out thoughtful, simple products. The thing I love most about it is as a designer, I’m technical but not as fully technical as many other engineers. I could integrate it. I had a poor experience integrating Authorize.net previously. When I compared the two, I was like, “This is something I’m super excited about.”
Andrew: Authorize.net, I still work with that. They’re so bad. I’m on Stripe and the reason I get excited about Stripe is so many guests on Mixergy were talking about Stripe, both in the interviews and off the interviews. Patrick, the founder, was here, doing an interview about how he built Stripe. I said, “Well, I’m not using Stripe. It’s too much of a hassle to integrate.” He followed up with me and said, “Dude, here’s our developer. Whatever you need, we can help out. Let’s make this work.” I thought, “This is a level of engagement that I’m not used to.” So, I signed up.
I never thought of them as a design company or I never appreciated their design. I always thought it was so basic, so minimal that I never paid attention to the design. But now that you mention it, that simplicity is what allowed me to train my people quickly remotely on how to give refunds on Stripe, where with Authorize.net, it’s a real hassle.
Ryan: Yeah. I think the perfect part is that their design gets out of the way and that’s what makes it great. Any good design gets out of the way.
Andrew: I feel like you and they have very similar design sensibilities too. So, I get that. You were at the time working at Quirky and you were looking to do something on the side?
Ryan: I was actually not at Quirky yet. I was actually working at healthcare startups. This was in 2012, roughly. I was on the way out of there. I went and worked at Groupon for a while and then I went to go work at Quirky. So, when we finally launched this app, I was working at Quirky.
Andrew: I see. You were lead product designer at Groupon, head of mobile at Quirky. You really had top jobs at these places. Could you, with a top job at Quirky, have time for a side project like this?
Ryan: Yeah. So, I think the great thing about our industry right now is the whole remote worker metaphor that’s happening. I’ve been working remotely. I worked remotely for Groupon. I live in Minneapolis but Groupon was in Chicago. Quirky was in New York. So, I was working remotely. What that allows me to do is actually accomplish things much faster. I was putting in long days at Quirky and getting a whole bunch of stuff done, but also my commuting time, instead of going an outreach way was spent going on my own apps. I think it made easy for me to justify in my head, “I want to build something that’s important because I actually have the time to do it.”
Andrew: You could do it on your commute?
Ryan: Well, I wasn’t commuting.
Andrew: Oh, I see, in place of the commute time. I see.
Ryan: Yeah, in place of the commute. I would have an extra hour in my office. I saved so much time.
Andrew: Got it. That makes perfect sense. We’ll get, I hope, to talk a little bit about your experience at Quirky. I was so disappointed when I heard about their bankruptcy. I just loved the idea behind the business. We’ll hopefully get some time to talk about that. But you saw this opportunity. You partnered with a friend. Why partner with a friend instead of doing it on your own?
Ryan: Well, for me, there was a point where I could have learned probably all the things I needed to do to do the app. For me, it was speed to market. There were no iOS apps for Stripe yet. What we realized is that being first to market might put us in the best position for possible acquisition for something like that. Stripe was growing so fast at the time that that was kind of the one thing that was in our head, like, “Hey, maybe it’s a good thing for us.”
So, my partner and I, we had worked together on another app a long time ago. We had just been in the market to build something together. It just seemed like this perfect fit at the moment.
Andrew: And you knew you had a need for it because your partner had some need for this and the product didn’t exist. What was his need?
Ryan: He, at the time, his wife was going to do like a garage sale or yard sale or whatever. He needed a way to charge credit cards at the garage sale. That was kind of a novel idea for the most part back then. Most garage sales were not accepting credit cards. So, we wanted to build that. That was the basis for payment. On the other hand, we had our app that we had integrated with Authroize.net.
One of the main things that we had found was that Authorize.net didn’t give us any nice reporting or anything like that. We couldn’t check on our stuff. With Stripe, had we switched over to that or had we built in Authorize.net or built in Stripe instead of Authroize.net, that would have been great for us. What we would have wanted was a mobile app to check on it. The iPhones were still kind of new, five years old, but we needed something to check in on our businesses, consulting or whatever.
Andrew: I see. I see the two needs. One is for data. Stripe, from the beginning, was not giving a lot of data and still to this day doesn’t great data at all. And they don’t seem that excited about giving you great data. They want to focus on making it easy to charge and making it available in more countries, that kind of thing. For the other part of it, which is allowing people to accept payments on the go, that was done by Square. Square was founded in what, 2009? So, why not just say, “That part is handled. No one needs to do payments with Stripe?”
Ryan: For us, I think it was nobody was doing it for Stripe yet. So, the way that I thought about was if all these stores, all these Shopify stores, all these Squarespace sites, all these people that make all these things were thinking about if they want to go do a booth or a conference or something like that, they’re going to want all that stuff in one place.
They’re going to want all their analytics in one place as these other companies like Baremetrics and things are popping up that really tell you everything about your business, these people are going to want it all in one place. If you’re aggregating from Square and Stripe, it just gets messy and it’s more technology. So, we knew that there are going to be people who are going to want to charge in person based on their Stripe Connect accounts.
Andrew: Did you start doing any market research or talk to other friends, other people who are running garage sales and see if they were interested?
Ryan: Yeah. We did some of that. My wife was part of a group of moms in the area. I talked to them about what it would mean if they had something like this available to them. A lot of them are into like Etsy-type things, like being able to sell their own stuff. They have this Facebook group that they kind of trade all the things together. What that meant for us and what I took away from that is that there is a market for this. Granted, I’m proving that out on a very small subset of people. But there’s something there.
In my mind, all I could think about was as Stripe gets more and more popular, there are only going to be more and more of these types of groups. As Stripe adds partnerships for all the big sites, all those people, they’re going to be charging in person too. So, as the world moves to transactional stuff, I think it was well-positioned. It was just kind of like perfect timing, I guess.
Andrew: So, you spent some time coding it. How long did it take you to create it?
Ryan: I can’t recall. I think it was about seven or nine months. That was part-time. We were just working on stuff. Part of that is because what you mentioned with the data. It was tricky aggregating summaries. Stripe doesn’t do this to this day still. You can’t get a monthly summary. You have to go all the way through and add up all the transactions for that month.
Andrew: Wait. So, with their API, you still couldn’t ask them, “How many customers does Andrew have?”
Ryan: You could get how many customers they have, but for something like revenue or the total number of charges you had in a month, you had to loop through and all of those together on your own server to get a full amount. They don’t give you something like the things that we were showing and paid like this week’s revenue, last week’s revenue, percent change, this month’s revenue, what that would be annualized for the year. They don’t show you any of that stuff and they still don’t.
Andrew: That’s what I understood from my notes on this interview. And that’s a shock to me, that you can’t just say, “Hey, what’s Andrew’s revenue for the last month?” And then get the number that you could display to me in a nice way. Interesting. I guess I don’t know if I even should say this, but API is application program interface. It’s the way that you with your software can interact with Stripe’s software. I assume that everyone in our audience knows it.
So, when you worked for six months, how did you overcome that challenge of Andrew needing to know how much he made last week and Stripe not giving me that?
Ryan: Yeah. So, I think the trick was that was a core piece of our product. Stripe wasn’t offering that really on our dashboard either. We knew that’s something someone would want daily on their phone to check into. So, what we had to do–we did two different versions.
We had a first version of paid that we tried doing all the transactional stuff on the phone. What that did is it caused a bunch of problem because connectivity stops and you’re losing transactions. You can’t just crunch all this data. As you get more and more transactions, crunching the data on the phone didn’t work. So, we had to build a separate service that we had to lock into. We basically had to build out an entire infrastructure for summing all these things and storing all this data for the users, which presented its own problems.
That’s financial data and our users didn’t necessarily want all those things even though we were storing it like customer ID and a number. It’s still their financial data and they don’t want to agree to that. So, that’s one of the hurdles that we get as part of that. It still works like that today. They still don’t give you that type of data, like even a company like Baremetrics or something. They have to store all that data too.
Andrew: I can’t imagine how much data and how much work Baremetrics has to go through. Baremetrics is all about giving you Stripe data in a more digestible, actionable format.
Ryan: They exist because Stripe won’t give you that data that way you need it.
Andrew: Stripe actually will not give us how many customers we have. By that I mean they’ll tell me who bought last week, but if that person cancelled, to me that’s not a customer. What I need because we have recurring payment is to know how many active recurring payment customers we have. I went back and forth with them on tech support and they just don’t have that. It’s not their focus, which I can respect. But that creates room for guys like you and guys like Baremetrics.
Ryan: Yeah. I think the amazing thing is all the integrations to Stripe. They publish their full integration list and there are dozens and dozens of companies doing analytics and things like that.
Andrew: So, you create the app and you decide you’re going to charge for it. Why charge for it?
Ryan: The way we thought about it and talking with people like Ruben Gamez and Rob Walling about this was that something that allows you to check in on your business, a tool to check in on your business, a one-time fee of $20 doesn’t feel like too much money. We ultimately charged $7.99 because at that point, there was another app that came up and they were charging around that price point.
So, we kind of went with the same thing and we kind of let it ride. We did a few different tests with pricing and stuff. But we were getting enough downloads to kind of feel like we were actually growing and that was profitable for us.
Andrew: I’m looking here at my data and it says that you guys got $800 to $1,000 in sales. That’s over how much time?
Ryan: For paid, we ran it as a paid app through the holidays. So, it wasn’t growing like greatly. So, I think one of the problems with that is that it’s a very niche-type app. You have to have a Stripe account. You have to have like a SaaS business. It’s very tricky for that. So, I would say over the span of probably four or five months we probably grew it up to that. The launch obviously threw many of those numbers off because it was well-received. But I’d say four to five months.
Andrew: How did you get the launch to do so well?
Ryan: I don’t really know. Product Hunt did part of it.
Andrew: Yeah. I saw that. That kind of feeds off a bunch of other stuff.
Ryan: Product Hunt is a great way to market something. If you don’t want to put a bunch of effort into it, it drives crazy traffic. I don’t know how much of it is qualified or not. But for the most part, Product Hunt is made of a lot of makers. So, those makers probably use Stripe and so they were our perfect target audience for us. It may not work for everything else I ever build, but it worked for that.
Andrew: I see Nick O’Neill on product hunt said, “I’ve used this recently and I’ve had a really nice experience taking payments on the go. My only complaint is there’s no total cost review before payment, so the one percent that this app takes feels a little hidden. I can see the potential for blowback form users.”
So, right from the start, you said, “We’re going to charge you for the app, which will be $7.99. In addition, we’re going to take one percent of the revenue that you make.”
Ryan: The one percent came about a little later. That was actually–we decided to actually split apart the two apps. So, there was a paid app that did analytics and then there was the payment app that did transactions. When we initially launched they were combined. As we were thinking about rewriting the app and making it way more robust–this was about the time iOS 7 came about and the new design style and everything like that–we split the apps apart. So, we sent paid to be a free app and we built payment to take the one percent.
Andrew: Got it. That’s what Nick O’Neill is looking at and that’s where he’s saying, “You guys are charging one percent. I thought I was going to put my users’ credit card numbers through here, charge and keep 100 percent.” Makes sense.
Ryan: Yeah. I think it’s a big hurdle for people to think about that one percent, mostly because Stripe is already taking 2.9 percent. But on the other hand, many card-swiping terminals and stuff like that are charging monthly amounts that maybe you never hit. So, that was kind of our way in to thinking about the one percent. Most people, our average charge is a couple hundred bucks, to many people a dollar or two just doesn’t really matter.
Andrew: All right. I’ve got to tell people now about my sponsor, which is Toptal. You’re a guy that just loves to create products. If we could send people off with one message, it’s create some kind of product, right? Let me ask you this. If I gave you 80 hours of Toptal developer time and said, “Ryan, you can build anything. These guys are fantastic, the best of the best. You’re not restricted by language. You’re not restricted by your office hours, nothing.” What would you want them to build for you?
Ryan: I’ve always had this idea in mind for a video thank you card service. So, when I got married, I didn’t enjoy writing out hundreds of thank you cards. What I wanted to do is take videos and send it to people. You can do that with Vine or anything else like that. But I would want to build a SaaS business around marketing these video thank you cards that are more personal.
Andrew: Interesting. That wouldn’t take that much time at all to code up. I bet that could be done in 80 hours. Am I right?
Ryan: I hope so.
Andrew: The idea is I would go on and say the name and email address of my friend who I want to thank. Here’s what you could say. Here’s the camera. Go. I record it. Then I get to re-record it I want to or hit send and then it goes to that person and the next and the next. That’s beautiful.
Ryan: Then you get to know when they’ve opened it, when they’ve seen it, maybe they were ungrateful and they didn’t care for the thank you.
Andrew: You know what? It is much more personal than sending another one of those thank you cards and less frustrating than a thank you card. That’s a great idea. Now you just gave it out to the world. Are you going to be bothered if someone takes that idea?
Ryan: No. I’m not. I think it would be a great product. I’d use it.
Andrew: It is a great product. It could integrate easily with Stripe. That’s the way, if you’re listening to this interview, I know you must be thinking, constantly having ideas of what you do. If you already have a tech department, a dev department and they just don’t have enough bandwidth to get these new projects off the ground, you don’t have to burden them with more work, you can just go to Toptal.
Ask Toptal for the perfect person for you. They will go look through their network of top developers, just like they did for Airbnb and so many other companies and they’ll find one and say, “Here, this is the person we think is going to be a good fit for your culture, for the software you want to have built, for the time that you need to work with them.” And they’ll make the introduction. If you like the person, you can get started very quickly with them and that person can just interact with you like a full-time employee. In fact, you can have them working for you or whoever is running your dev team or even have them work part time or just on a project.
It’s really a great working experience, very flexible. The only thing they’re not flexible about is top people. They are not going to get down to the cheap people who aren’t that great. They want their niche to be the best of the best. The best of the best people program faster, give you better quality results.
Anyway, whether you have that idea or anything else, I want you to go to Toptal.com/Mixergy. If you put that /Mixergy at the end, you’ll be able to get 80 free developer hours if you buy 80. In addition to that, they’ve got a risk-free trial period. Let me just make sure that I’m not getting any of this wrong. I don’t ever want to say something and mislead what my partner does. There we go–80 free Toptal developer hours and you get two weeks.
If you’re not 100 percent satisfied, you will not be billed. Toptal will still pay the developer. They’re not going to cheat the developer just because you’re not happy. Airbnb is a client who has worked with the. Ideo has worked with them. Zendesk has worked with them–so many people. Your friends probably have already worked with them. You should get to know Toptal. And I’m grateful to them for sponsoring.
So, Ryan, thanks for helping with the sponsorship message. You built your app. You started selling it. It wasn’t setting the world on fire. We’re talking about low thousands in sales, right? Not tens of thousands, never mind millions. So, you say, “I’m going to do something drastic here,” and you change the price to what?
Ryan: We changed the price to free.
Andrew: Wow. That must have been really nerve-wracking, wasn’t it?
Ryan: It was. But our thought process at the time was get the users. Stripe can’t ignore it forever if it has all the users.
Andrew: Why was it important for you to not have Stripe ignore it?
Ryan: At the time, the way that we were feeling–and we’ll probably get to this–about Quirky was that it may not be the perfect fit for us long-term. So, we felt like Stripe could be a great company to work for. If we built something valuable enough, maybe they’ll take interest and maybe there’s an acquisition.
Andrew: I see. So, you were thinking, “If we can’t make enough money, maybe we can get acquired and start working directly for that team.” Doesn’t that feel like a failure though, to you? You guys set out to create a product and now you’re stetting out to create a resume?
Ryan: It does. I think the funny thing is about is we never applied at Stripe. If we wanted to work there so bad, we should have just applied there, but we didn’t. So, I don’t know if it was the fun of the chase, trying to become fancy enough for them to want to acquire it. Maybe it was just a pipe dream. Yeah. I think it was a failure. That’s what we kind of set out to build. We never really thought about it in terms of, “This is going to replace our income in the future,” until now.
Andrew: You’re starting to think that way now and we’ll get to why in a bit. But you go free. And it’s not that Stripe is neglecting you or ignoring you completely. One thing I’ve noticed about Stripe is if you build something for Stripe, they’ll give you some promotion. Like you said, they have a page of all their integrations. I forget where that is, but it’s on there somewhere. They’ll tweet out for you. They’ll do little things for you, but not that much. What did they do for you?
Ryan: They did all those things you mentioned. We were on the integration list. We were in close contact with John and Patrick regarding like beta versions. John had tweeted about us. Patrick had tweeted about us. So, we had their support and we had their backing. It felt like they wanted us to succeed. They wanted it to be something important and helpful for their business.
Andrew: And at the same time, they just weren’t talking to you about, “How do we get you on board here?”
Ryan: Yeah. At the same time, we’d ask for some of the things to get done or some of those end points that you and I talked about for the API and it just sort of fell on deaf ears. Granted, they have real business priorities that they’re focused on, not our app servicing thousands of people.
Andrew: I get that. So, when you go to free, how helpful was it?
Andrew: And there was no revenue coming in from it because you decoupled those apps. Now I see the Product Hunt listing for both of them. You had one product that you called Payments for iOS, the other you called Stripe Dashboard for iPhone. It’s interesting that the dashboard got way more votes, about twice as many as the payment and the payment had the revenue model built into it.
There was no money, then, coming in from that. You were just saying, “Let’s get at least more users and we’ll figure out where it goes. Maybe Stripe will acquire us. Maybe some business will come out of it.”
Ryan: Yeah. So, the funny thing about it is we were always so worried about Stripe acquiring us, but we had actually fielded calls from a few other businesses that had talked about acquiring the app because of just the analytics part of it. We were fronting the server costs and stuff out of our own pocket as we grew. Obviously crunching all that data, our server costs grew very quickly, to the point where it almost became very important–
Andrew: How much?
Ryan: Probably at the peak of it, we were paying $500 to $600 at Heroku, which isn’t the end of the world, but for an app that’s making no money and growing, that cost is probably growing month over month. It was an easy decision to kind of start figuring out how to make money.
Andrew: Why didn’t you sell to the people who tried to acquire you?
Ryan: It just wasn’t a great fit. One of them was an analytics metrics-type company. We kind of realized at that time that wasn’t really what we wanted to be in. As much as I do in terms of metrics and analytics–I’m a big Mixpanel fan and I put it in every project I have–it didn’t seem like adding Stripe into there–we loved that it was a standalone product and it was helping business owners.
And the two opportunities we had–one person was looking at it for just our email list because we had so many Stripe connected accounts and he was building a Stripe service that he wanted those for and then the other one was just this secondary Frankenstein product on the side of the main product, so neither felt right.
Andrew: That’s pretty interesting for us to be aware of. There are something people out there who are looking for new customers. Instead of saying, “Let’s do some content marketing or ad buys?” or all the usually stuff, they’re saying, “Who already has them? Whose product might not be growing fast enough and they’d be willing to sell them?” That’s a pretty good idea, huh?
Ryan: Yeah. I thought it was a great idea on his part. These are hyper-niche people. If you’re building a service for Stripe users, we had thousands of them. It’s pretty easy for him, I think.
Andrew: I should be doing that too. Any time somebody decides they’re going to close down their email newsletter for entrepreneurs, I’ll say, “I think I can acquire that from you guys.”
Ryan: It’s not a bad idea.
Andrew: You turned them down and you kept on going. Stripe wasn’t calling you. Did you feel demoralized? Did you feel any financial burden at that point? I know that you were losing money, but did you start to feel like it was getting financially scary?
Ryan: No, not at all.
Andrew: You had a job.
Ryan: We had a job. We knew we could shut it down whenever we wanted. The only thing you lose is the notoriety of running the app and that’s not a big deal. We wanted to see how far we could take it, whether that meant spending thousands of dollars a month or hundreds.
Andrew: It wasn’t totally easy. I see here in my notes from your conversation with our producer, you said, “There was a period of grief there where we just couldn’t figure things out. Grief is pretty intense. What was grief like for you?
Ryan: That period happened a few different times. I make it seem like we weren’t that concerned with it, but there were times when we were like, “Why aren’t they calling? What is about it? Is it our backgrounds? Are they not impressive enough?” I think you start getting a lot of self-doubt.
You see, especially in our industry, there are people getting acquired. All these things happen, the Instagram deal and you’re like, “What is about them that makes them more desirable than something like this?” I think for me it was a lot of self-doubt and I was like, “Maybe I’m not doing the right thing. Maybe my skill set isn’t the right thing.”
Andrew: Meanwhile, the acquisition at least from Stripe I don’t think has anything to do with you. As far as I know, they don’t do these kinds of acquisitions, right?
Andrew: I don’t remember one.
Ryan: That’s something we didn’t research well enough before we started the app.
Andrew: We all get to that point. I remember I was so pissed–and I still have this chip on my shoulder about it–that so many competitors were getting funded in my last business and I wasn’t getting any funding. Why would these guys always prefer my competition? Is it me? Is it because I’m just in the middle of nowhere in Queens? Is it something about me, my personality? Meanwhile, I didn’t try to get funding. I guess in the beginning, I tried a little bit from friends and family. But I didn’t go to venture capitalists. They were rejecting me. They didn’t even know I existed.
Ryan: Right. That’s pretty much how we felt too.
Andrew: I get that. And then Stripe created an app that I only installed on my phone a few minutes before our conversation just to see what it was. What happened to you when you saw they did it?
Ryan: Yeah. I was actually at a funeral. When I checked my phone when it was over, I had four different text messages from four different colleagues saying, “Stripe just launched an app. What are you going to do?” And the first thing I thought about was, “Well, it doesn’t matter. They can’t gather up the market share like that, like friction doesn’t work in their favor in that regard. Our app is free. Their app is free.” We do a lot more than their app does or did. Our app did a lot more.
So, it wasn’t initial panic. I think the panicking set in a little bit when I actually had more time to think about it and I started looking at the metrics over time as the things were dropping off, I was thinking, “We’re spending a lot of money running these servers to something that’s ultimately heading to zero usage.”
And I was like, “This isn’t really even the core that we want to be in. We don’t make money off it. Obviously they’re not going to acquire this app because they just built their own and it’s beautiful and it’s a great app.” That’s when we decided maybe paid isn’t the long-term solution of what we want to be doing.
Andrew: Paid meaning…
Ryan: The analytics portion.
Andrew: Maybe shut it down. You formally shut it down. You actually wrote this fantastic medium post about it. That’s partially what I researched in preparation for this conversation. What was it like to tell the world, “I failed?”
Ryan: It wasn’t that hard, actually.
Ryan: Yeah. I felt like I just wanted to be honest about it. I feel like building something on top of a third-party API is very easy to do. Anyone can do it. APIs are everywhere. I think one of the risks that I knew getting into it, but I didn’t realize how big it was, that you could be shut down at any moment. There are many products on top of these things. This happened to all the developers with Twitter years ago, right?
Ryan: But for me, when I was thinking about it, it didn’t feel like a failure at the time because we grew it to thousands of users and it was beloved by many people. It wasn’t something like I felt bad about. It wasn’t something like, “Oh, we took a misstep and that’s why it’s gone.” It was, “This was kind of an inevitable thing.” Two things were either going to happen–they were going to acquire the app or the team or they were going to build their own. We were kind of equally prepared for both.
Andrew: Then you still had the second app. We were talking before the interview about how that second app did. It’s pretty surprising. I want to get to that in a moment, but first I’ve got to tell people about HostGator.
HostGator is the site I want you to go to if you need to host a website. They have incredible uptime. They give you incredible bandwidth. Let me actually get the real numbers. In my mind, it’s unlimited bandwidth. But I think they’re using different language now because you’re not allowed to say something is unlimited, because frankly it’s just impossible to give you unlimited bandwidth. So, here’s what they call it–unmetered bandwidth. There. Now none of us are going to jail. They do have unlimited email addresses. Apparently that you can still say.
But they have great uptime, incredible, incredible support. How many times do you get to talk to your hosting company, whoever you’re with? I bet you don’t get to really talk to them on the phone. I bet if there’s a problem, it’s your headache and if you really need to reach them, you’ve got to file a support ticket. That’s not the way it works with HostGator–real people giving you concierge service.
That’s in addition to all the building tools that they give you, the web templates if you want a quick design. They give you shopping cart software. They make it really easy for you to add WordPress. There are so many other content management solutions. WordPress is probably what you’re going to want because it’s so freaking popular today. They’ll host anything for you, virtually. Can I say anything in the world or is there like an FTC rule against that?
In addition, if you go to HostGator.com/Mixergy, they will give you 30 percent off. Their prices are already incredible low–30 percent off is going to give you $4.87 a month is where things are going to start if you go to HostGator.com/Mixergy. And they’ll give you $100 in AdWords offer. They’ll give you a $100 search credit from Bing and Yahoo–so many other benefits.
Let me ask you this, Ryan. If you could start one thing that’s not software, what’s one simple website that you might want to launch?
Ryan: My wife is a photographer. And we kind of threw her site together. It’s on Virb or something. But I think if I had all the time in the world to dedicate it to someone, I would build her something great on a service like that.
Andrew: What a great idea. I keep thinking about business websites. But when my wife and I started dating, I created a website for her. She called me–what was the word? I forget what the word was. But I bought the domain DictionHarry.com. I took a copy for what Dictionary.com’s website looked like for the word that she called me. I forget what it was. And then I put a photo of myself on it in the definition. I said, “I am basically the definition of this word.” I sent it over to her. She got such a kick out of the fact that she got this whole site built just for hr.
Ryan: That’s awesome.
Andrew: These one-hit sites are so easy to create, so inexpensive. Imagine if you wanted Stripe to hire you and you created this whole site just for them and said, “Guys, here it is. This is what we built. We want to be part of the Stripe team if you have room for us. All you have to do is click here and we’ll find you.”
Anything you guys need to create–if you’re on there in the audience and you want to create a site, go to HostGator. If you hate your hosting company, listen, you are an entrepreneur, you don’t have to take the world the way it is, you can switch. In fact, HostGator can make the migration so simple. They’ll do it for you. Go to HostGator.com/Mixergy.
The second app and this thing that Nick O’Neill alluded to was actually really exciting. What was the revenue model for that and where is it today?
Ryan: The revenue model is as simple as it can be. We take a one percent transaction fee on every single charge. That enabled us to just figure out how to grow volume and you grow your revenue.
Andrew: That’s fantastic. So, all it is, is an app where if I’m doing a garage sale and I sell something and I already have a Stripe account, I just go in and I say, “I’m charging this person this much money. Here’s their credit card information.” Boom, it goes through. They get paid and you get one percent of that transaction.
Ryan: That’s right.
Andrew: Where are you guys with that?
Ryan: It’s going pretty well. We launched it in January. So, it’s nine months here. We’re about to pass $5,000 in revenue this month.
Andrew: And it’s consistently growing?
Ryan: Consistently growing at 20 to 50 percent month over month.
Andrew: That’s surprising because you don’t have recurring revenue with that. It’s not like you’re encouraging people to charge their yard store people over and over, right? It’s just a one-time thing and still it continues to grow.
Ryan: Yeah. I think that’s part of the reasons it grows. The new users that come in, they need a quick solution just to capture something for whatever they’re doing at a conference or a booth or something like that. We get to capture that revenue very quickly because the setup with Stripe is super easy. Maybe there’s attrition later and they bounce on us. For the most part, there are many different people that have done dozens and dozens and hundreds of transactions over and over again.
Andrew: You know, Ryan, it occurs to me that of the two sides of that business, this was the easier one to create and to manage. It’s the cheaper one, right?
Ryan: All those things are true. Yes.
Andrew: You don’t have to pull all the data from Stripe and assemble it in lots of different ways and store it on your system. You just have to take your customers’ data, send it over to Stripe and their APIs are really good for that, right?
Ryan: Yes, very good. We add one additional line to their request that says our fee that we take out and everything else is handled by Stripe.
Andrew: Unbelievable. So, this is something anyone could have created. It’s something that frankly Stripe could create at some point in the future. What do you do to keep that business growing?
Ryan: I think this one is actually safer from Stripe building a competitor or a replacement. I think obviously if they shut down our app because they build their own, that’s a different story. But I think with these types of apps, these ones that are very in-person when you’re doing business with someone person to person, I think it’s going to be harder for them to pull users away.
Like analytics can be replaced. We all switched from Google Analytics to Mixpanel to KISSmetrics to Keen, all those new ones that are coming out. People swap those out all the time and our old app that was just analytics was easily replaceable because someone with more resources can do more. Baremetrics is a perfect example, right? So, for us, I don’t think this app is as replaceable. If I have this in my flow and I’m doing these tradeshows and I’m selling these crochet kittens or something like that, I have my flow. It works fine. I’m fine giving away–
Andrew: To be honest, it doesn’t seem to matter. As long as you have your Stripe account, you just go in and punch the numbers into a new place.
Ryan: The beauty is with Stripe getting more partnerships all the time, you have your webstore that’s connected to Stripe and then you have a terminal to go out and use that’s connected to Stripe so everything is in one place.
Andrew: I feel like Baremetrics is in a similar situation to you, where they’re doing analytics on top of Stripe, the kind of data that Stripe is not going to do as far as I can tell. But they do seem to be building in more features that Stripe is going to have a harder time matching and doesn’t have interest in matching, like they’re making it easier for people who have recurring customers to come back to them if their credit cards fail or if their credit cards are about to fail. That seems like a lot of heavy work that doesn’t really pay that much that Stripe isn’t going to want to get into.
But frankly, it seems like when you build with APIs, you get a really fast head start but you constantly have to worry about this. Are they going to shut off this API? Are they going to do this exact same thing? Are they going to do something else that we can’t even anticipate, right?
Ryan: Yeah. It’s something that you struggle with every day. But the thing about it is that if you build a sticky enough product and something that has a great enough experience, I think the replacement part is a moot point because they’re not going to replace–if something is already great, they won’t replace it. Like Facebook could have built Instagram but Instagram was great. You know what I mean?
Andrew: Yeah. That’s one lesson, to just watch out with APIs, which we’ve learned before. Another one is frankly, if you see an API out there, just see if you can create something quick with it because they make it so easy. If you had to pay a developer to create just your payments app, how much do you think it would cost you to hire a developer to make it?
Ryan: It would have been tens to hundreds of thousands.
Andrew: Really? For the payment app?
Ryan: Oh, I thought you meant building it without Stripe.
Andrew: No, that would have been huge.
Ryan: Building on top of Authorize.net or something.
Andrew: Yeah. Imagine I was sitting there a few years ago thinking, “Stripe doesn’t have a way for people to collect payment at conferences. We should create an app that allows people to do that.” I see their API is going to enable it. They encourage this kind of thing. I can’t create it myself. I’m going to hire a developer.” What do you think it would cost?
Ryan: It would cost under $10,000. It was a month of development time part-time.
Andrew: That’s huge with APIs that you can do it so fast. That’s with your design, frankly.
Ryan: No. It would have been money easily spent, as long as you’ve figured out and proved out your model, it’s a very short-term investment because you just get up to speed so fast with an API.
Andrew: What else did you learn about software and new companies from having done this?
Ryan: I learned that customer support is hard and time-consuming, especially when we have the analytics piece. There were numbers that would go wild all the time because maybe our aggregating tools were dropping off midway or whatever and people’s summaries were incorrect, which leads me to the other thing I learned about financial software, that it has to be accurate, otherwise you’re going to hear about it a lot. That was a tricky thing to do with Stripe.
Andrew: It’s really hard. It does need to be accurate. But I have to tell you that I’ve seen people still get it wrong and survive. It’s not as life-threatening as it seems in the moment when you get an email from someone that says, “My data is wrong. You’ve mislead me. You’re really causing me to make bad business decisions.”
It just happens. I love Baremetrics. I’m a customer of theirs. I remember their data being off at times. There would be days when suddenly I’d go in and see I lost 100 customers. What did we say? Was it some stupid thing I said in an interview? I just would come back later in the day and they were all back.
Ryan: Yeah. I think those are probably the same problems that we were hitting with the Stripe API too.
Andrew: Here’s what else you said in your Medium post. You said, “Customer support–really time-consuming, very hard.” Before I move on from that one, do you think that it’s just because of analytics or do you think it was because of the way you were handling customer support?
Ryan: Probably a little bit of both. The way we handled it was I knew my email address and said email me. I know everything there is to know about the app. So, you ask me the questions. I think the other part of that is that if it’s not something that’s a problem on our end, it was typically a problem on Stripe’s end. So, they aren’t known for the best support right now.
So, getting them to help someone else too–the other curious thing about that was that we were often mistaken for the official Stripe app. So, people would complain to us about why a charge didn’t go through or why their revenue is wrong or whatever. That was constantly something we had to explain. “We just read the data. We’re not storing any of the data.”
Andrew: Do you think you could have hired a virtual assistant to help you with that?
Ryan: I think so. I like doing it though because I did learn a lot from doing it.
Andrew: What did you learn from it?
Ryan: Just what I said about the financial institutions and having that accurate data. That’s something I never really considered because when I look at financial data like that, I don’t care about down to the dollar, that doesn’t matter. But these people were like, “I made a charge three days ago for $1.58 but it’s not showing up on my dashboard.” And it’s like, “I don’t know what happened. Maybe the job timed out or whatever.”
So, I liked doing support and I still like doing support. I think as a designer when you’re constantly learning, that’s the best way to learn because you find out where all the pain points are and then you can sift through and figure out what you should be building next pretty easily.
Andrew: The other thing you said in your Medium post is that making money is hard. I’m wondering if because you’re a designer, because you come from a different frame of mind, you didn’t get as excited about the marketing side of things and that if you had–god knows I’ve seen people with really crappy products but heavy on marketing who ended up getting a lot of customers and then turning things around with their product later.
Ryan: I think that’s absolutely true. I think that’s one of the reasons that my first app didn’t work out. It was basically a competitor app to Ruben Gamez Bidsketch app and he was doing the right marketing and we weren’t and I didn’t have an interest in that at that time. I still struggle with that.
I’m having a friend right now help me with some marketing and stuff like that for payment to try to grow it. Now that we have revenue, we’re going to try to grow it much faster. I still struggle with that. I care more about the experience of the product and stuff and less about the marketing. So, that’s something that I certainly have to get better at if I want to have my own sustainable business. I have to kind of care more about that.
Andrew: I get it. I talked to you before we started about how much I think of your designs. You’re just so basically simple. It’s kind of like Stripe. It doesn’t feel designed. It just feels like it makes sense. You know what? Let’s move away from this business for a moment and talk about the one that you just brought up, the one that was competitive with Ruben’s business and then I also want to talk about Quirky, because that was such an incredible company.
Andrew: Let’s talk first about the business that was competitive with Ruben. Did his company exist before yours, Bidsketch?
Ryan: I don’t remember. I think the way it went was we launched first, but he was in the middle of doing his market research and building his product. So, we maybe beat him to market, but he certainly beat us to the customers.
Andrew: And Bidsketch and your business makes it easy for companies to create client proposals.
Ryan: Exactly. So, I focused ours, it was called Six Central. It was focused on like designers. So, I was doing a lot of freelancing then. What I found was that I had no good way to gather requirements and stuff like that and even pitch people. Ruben was going after a much different market than that. But yeah, it was right around the same time. I remember him telling me one time, “Shit, they just launched and I’m building the exact same product.” So, it was pretty close.
Andrew: Which I don’t think should have killed you because it’s not like designers are one big community that talk about the same thing. They’re all living in their own world and some for years didn’t know about Bidsketch and most probably still don’t know about it to this day. There was something else too that was causing a problem. It was you and your cofounder, right? Do you feel comfortable talking about it publicly?
Ryan: Of course. One of the problems was the last thing we built–and this is kind of why we ended up building a Stripe app–is that the last thing we integrated into the app was Authorize.net integration and it killed us. It took months for us to do it. What we found is that my cofounder and I at the time, we didn’t want to do that part of it. So, it was easy to put it off. The screens were designed and stuff and we ultimately hired someone to actually do it. But ironically, that cofounder is the same person I said Paid and Payment with.
Andrew: Oh really, I thought you guys had such a big falling out and you never talked again?
Ryan: It was a couple of years.
Andrew: Really? Why would that lead to such a big falling out that you wouldn’t talk for years?
Ryan: I think it got into the partnership, like, “He’s not doing what he’s supposed to. He didn’t do what he was supposed to-type thing.” At that time, I think I just was like I don’t know if this is someone that I want to be working with. I don’t know if I can trust him to do what he says he’s going to do. If I want to build a real business that can replace my job, I don’t know if he’s the right guy to do it with.
Andrew: So, how did you get back together?
Ryan: We started talking again about Stripe. We started talking about how excited we were about it. I was just upfront with him. I said, “It didn’t go well last time.” We sold the app. It was actually the design is what Ruben really wanted.
Andrew: I complimented him, I think in a Mixergy interview and that’s when he told me, “I didn’t create it. It was this guy, Ryan.”
Ryan: Yeah. So, I just told him straight up. I was like, “If we’re going to do this, it’s got to be different this time.” I’ve always believed that’s the way to confront it. I enjoyed working with him when we did. It was just that I think we took too long to do it and we lost interest.
Andrew: How do you reconnect with someone like that? I don’t know how I would do it. I guess I would go on Facebook and send a Facebook message.
Ryan: Luckily, this guy is very chatty in a way. He just brushed it off. He’s like, “Okay, we’ll take some time and we’ll figure out something else.” We rallied around a product. Coincidentally, we both ended up working at Quirky together again. So, it all worked out well.
Andrew: So, the idea behind Quirky was the community creates product ideas. The community votes on those ideas to decide which is the right one. The community helps improve them and then the community ends up buying it and becoming the first customers and then the community grows when new people discover the products, right?
Ryan: Yeah. Anyone that helps develop the product makes money, perpetual royalties.
Andrew: Which is shocking. But anyone can help make the product better.
Ryan: Yeah, that was the pitch.
Andrew: They ended up with fantastic products, everything from small iPhone chargers to air conditioners, to products that worked with General Electric, with GE and they still closed. What was the problem?
Ryan: I think it was a lack of focus.
Andrew: What do you mean?
Ryan: We were trying to do too much. It was always more faster and less about making something very good.
Andrew: More faster. Did you feel internally that we have just keep creating more apps? You only had one or two apps, right?
Ryan: Yeah. Well, we had two apps. So, I think there were two different sides of it. There was our software team, the platform team and then there was the actual physical product team. The physical product team was expected to launch many products every single week at a weekly event called Eval.
And it was always–got to have at least three or five or whatever the number is. I don’t recall. They were just filling space. They may not have been good ideas. They were spending a lot of money in doing that. All of those things were vetted by the community properly. Yeah, they made it through the website and they made it through Eval. But they didn’t do any market research on them. It was just like, “We think this is a great idea. Let’s run with it.”
Andrew: Is there one idea that you remember looking back on as just completely wrong and if you would have had better controls you wouldn’t have done it?
Ryan: I don’t have one of those, but I do recall the CEO, Ben Kaufman, he hated this invention called Cordies. So, it’s like a rubber band with a hook on it. So, he said, “This is never going to work. No way anybody is going to buy these.” And it was one of the bestselling products that Quirky every made. So, it just goes to show you that even the leader can be wrong about that stuff and that’s why making it a democracy is the right way to go.
Andrew: But it wasn’t a true democracy. Internally you guys had to decide what gets created regardless of votes. You’re saying in reality, it’s not that we held back on too much. We just allowed to much to get through. We were supposed to use our power to block stupid decisions from the audience. Instead we were enabling too many decisions.
Ryan: Pretty much. When I started there, it was actually the entire staff, 120 people or whatever, would review ideas and all the different categories. So, you would choose a group. Like if I wanted to be part of the Apple group or whatever, I would sit down and review the 100 ideas from that week from the group and pick the ones that would go to Eval. There was smoke and mirrors involved with the community aspect of it.
Andrew: What do you mean?
Ryan: I think the community thought they had more power than they did. But in reality, when I take a step back–I loved everything about working there–there decisions were made by a group of 20 to 30-year olds in a Manhattan office, for the most part. So, that was something that we were actually looking to change. We were actually starting to build out a new platform that kind of turned that whole thing on its head.
What we thought about was Quirky doesn’t have to be a product company. It can be a market research company. When you get all these great minds and all these specialties, people that are good at 3D modeling or whatever all coming together and building these crowdsource products, then you can get the GEs of the world to funnel their stuff through it and vet their ideas because maybe it’s not the regular people that have the greatest idea, but maybe it’s the vetting that’s missing from all of it.
Andrew: But there still wasn’t market research done. Even internally you didn’t see that?
Ryan: Not a whole lot. So, one example of kind of something that blew up but we never made for many different reasons, mostly legal, was this thing called the Slide Rider. It was this collapsible slide that you could set down your staircase and slide down it. And as you can imagine, it blew up on BuzzFeed and everywhere else because it was such a great idea.
And to us, that was a vetted product, right? We didn’t do anything for it. We didn’t market it or anything. It just made it through Eval one day and blew up on social media. Well, that wasn’t one of the ones that we decided to produce for legal reasons, people getting hurt and stuff like that. But that was one of the ones that I remember being completely validated of, “We could actually sell this thing.”
Andrew: What about at Groupon? What did you learn from that?
Ryan: I learned about data. I learned how to power an ecommerce site with data and using data to make decisions all the time.
Andrew: How did you guys do it at Groupon?
Ryan: Everything was tested. If we’re changing the color of a button, it was tested. That is difficult a lot of times, especially for a designer. Sometimes you can’t explain why something is better. I don’t think data should always make that decision. Especially because Groupon is such a revenue-focused company that they had to justify those decisions because it was bleeding money for the most part. I think the biggest takeaway for me was just like figuring out how to utilize the right data, get the right data to make decisions on that stuff.
Andrew: All right. So, I think we’ve got everything about the company that didn’t work out. I think we’ve gotten Payments, a product that has so much potential and has already produced some real revenue here. Overall, you guys are profitable, right? Considering you didn’t put any money into, right? Well, I guess you did into servers, into Heroku costs, right?
Andrew: That was a big expense but you guys have more than made up for it at this point, right?
Andrew: I want to ask you about one last one–two last ones and we should actually go. We’re out of time, but I still have to ask you about this–Unload It. You said we didn’t have to talk about it. We have a little bit of time here if you’re up for it. I’m just too fascinated by Unload It. The idea there is–you describe it. I’m looking at the webpage. I think it’s better if you describe it.
Ryan: I synced up with some people I worked with at Groupon at a startup here. I’m actually in the Chicago office right now. Basically, what Unload It was is that we realized that people are–eBay is a bad place for selling your stuff. Craigslist is a bad place for selling your stuff just because they’re old school hard to use. Unload It was kind of that concierge-type thing where you don’t know how much your old sofa is worth. You don’t know if you can get rid of it or if you have to donate it. The idea was you text one of our people and they tell you what they can do for it. They find a buyer for you on Craigslist. They figure out–
Andrew: Super simple. I take a photo of it. I say, “I’m not using this couch anymore. What do you say?” They come back and say, “This one actually is going to be worth some money. It’s all done via text. So, it’s super simple. And then if I want to, I can just drop it off somewhere and you guys take care of it and give me my money when you get it.
Ryan: Yeah. It’s a beautiful invisible app. That’s how SMS should be. It didn’t even need an app. SMS was plenty good for that. So, I think what was great about it was that it was so simple. It was an easy need for everyone. You could look around your place and you can see a bunch of stuff you want to get rid of.
I think the hard part is that people put more intrinsic value into something they have into what it’s actually worth. That’s why when you go on eBay, everything is listed for $20 than probably what you would ever pay for it. That’s why eBay built the best offer feature. They knew that people are listing everything higher than what they’re going to get.
Andrew: Yeah. So, you’re getting people who were asking for too much. You closed the company down?
Ryan: It wasn’t even a company. We launched it as an experiment. We just said, “Let’s put up a landing page.” We built the SMS and Twilio integration and we spent like three weeks building out this thing. We were like, “If it hits, it’s going to be big because there’s a use case for every single person in the world that could probably use this.” And it did and we got great press. And what we realized at the end is that the dollars and cents didn’t make sense.
Andrew: Your expenses were what? Who was manning the text messages?
Ryan: It was all of us. There wasn’t a whole lot of product and development work to be done. So, me and the two other engineers and the other employees, there were six of us. We were getting all the inbound stuff and we were the experts. I was an electronics expert. Other people were men’s and women’s fashion or whatever.
What we found is there are plenty of other companies that have kind of done this. One of them is called Gone, I think or Get Gone. They narrowed it down to just the electronics and sunglasses or something because anything else besides those things that are very specific and have very known values to them are very hard to sell. We had trouble selling through eBay and like the quality doesn’t match what the people give you. There were all these headaches that were happening with it. We just kind of realized that we aren’t logistically inclined enough to be able to do this.
Andrew: How did you even pick up the stuff?
Ryan: We actually hired a driver in Chicago that would pick up the stuff in his truck.
Andrew: So, it was only in Chicago?
Ryan: Yeah. We tried to launching San Francisco to start. We were using an integration with Shyp to have them pick up the stuff and ship it to us or other people.
Andrew: I keep calling it Unload It, but actually it’s called Unload. The URL is Unload.it. All right. Final thing is the Instagram API-based business. What’s that?
Ryan: Yeah. This is part of the same company. This is another experiment we did allowing people to buy any type of good, especially for this company it’s vinyl records on Instagram. So, what you do is you post your photo, you click through their profile link and the first thing you see up there is the latest photo with a price on it. We integrated with Stripe and you can check out and we ship it to you.
It was more an experiment in how quickly and fast we could grow this. We grew it to 20,000 followers in the course of–now it’s been ten months. It’s kind of a neat thing. There’s such high engagement on Instagram. There’s a great spot for ecommerce there. I think Instagram is going to solve that problem eventually, but we’re just kind of seeing how do we grow this? What kind of communities can we get from it? We’re doing a bunch of different things around communities and selling things between two different people, these collector communities.
Andrew: What’s the website on that? I know I had it but I can’t find it.
Ryan: It’s Shopstick, like chopstick.
Andrew: It is. Got it. Shopstick like drumstick, but Shopstick. I see. Give your group the tools to grow. The reason I was confused it I went to the homepage and I saw Facebook.
Ryan: Yeah. So, now we’re experimenting with Facebook groups. So, there’s a huge amount of these groups that are selling stuff on Facebook groups. It’s very manual. You have to private message someone your PayPal address and you comment to bid. So, we’re working on moving those types of groups into our own service that you can do auctions and trading and stuff like that into.
Andrew: I see. Cool. And again, really well designed site. Well, Ryan, we’ve talked about a lot here. Thanks so much for doing the interview. How does it feel to have come on here and talked about this?
Ryan: It feels good. It’s liberating. I can recall when Ruben made the introduction. I wanted to talk about it because I felt like a lot of people could learn from the things that we did and the things that we wanted to do and there’s, I think, a lot of people dream about acquisitions and stuff and building on top of third party stuff is an easy path to do it, but there are risks involved with it.
Andrew: And I don’t think companies talk enough about this. And I think entrepreneurs in general think that it’s so painful that they just don’t want to address it. But it’s not that painful. As you’re pointing out, it’s just liberating to get it off your chest. I know I had that experience. The first version of Mixergy failed. I hated it. I stuck with it for too long. And then I finally did a post that said I failed. I felt free. It gave me an opportunity to just move on instead of carrying this baggage and pretending why this thing isn’t working or not addressing why it didn’t work out.
There’s one entrepreneur who we all know. I won’t say her name because I’d like to get her to an interview here, frankly. But she’s not talking about why her company failed. By not talking about it, I think she’s missing out on shaping the story towards the truth. Instead what’s happening is after I finish an interview, people will bring her up or if I talk in person to people, they talk about what went wrong.
And the story I see is starting to take shape of how the company is failing and I don’t think it’s real. I don’t think it’s what happened inside. She’s getting stuck with it. Later, when she’s ready to start talking about something new, she’s going to have to undo this fake story that’s in people’s heads to get them to know who she is and what she’s working on. That’s just not the way to do things.
Ryan: It’s a similar story with Quirky. The narrative is already being written that is was just the company that burned money and wanted all this money. But in reality, it was a great company to work for and it did so great things and what’s being written now isn’t the full truth.
Andrew: I’d like to get Ben going out there and talking about it. It’s so sad now. I went to Quirky.com. On the homepage is this big image with this important update. “On September 22nd, 2015, Quirky filed a voluntary petition under Chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy Court in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.” And it goes on. It’s sad.
But this stuff happens. The best thing that we can do is just learn from it so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes and then we find opportunities to build incredible companies. I know Ryan you’ve done one here with Payments and you’re continuing to do it with Shopstick. I’m really appreciative that you came on here. You’re a Mixergy fan, so you know how much I care about these kinds of stories. I appreciate you being here.
Ryan: Thanks for having me.
Andrew: You bet. Thank you all for being a part of Mixergy. If you think this is the kind of interview you want more of, I urge you to subscribe to this podcast and to please rate it. Rating really helps and frankly I’d like to look at it and see what you’re doing.
What I would love to do at some point in the future, just like now I’ve got this comment about Ryan from–oh, look at this, September 20th, 2011 is the first time I saw your name on Mixergy’s website. How cool would it be if a few years from now I could see that someone who commented on iTunes is being interviewed?
Andrew: It would help me tremendously today and I hope that we’ll get to find out about your story if you’re listening to me in the future when you come here to do an interview. Please subscribe, rate the interview. If you like my sponsors, go to HostGator.com/Mixergy or Toptal.com/Mixergy. Thank you, Ryan. Thank you all for being a part of Mixergy. Bye, everyone.